Seven Days in Solitary [4/27/22]

Our Weekly Roundup of News and Views on Solitary Confinement

by | April 27, 2022

New this week from Solitary Watch:

 Melat Eskander interviews a man with several mental disorders incarcerated in Pennsylvania for Solitary Watch, highlighting the anti-Black racism he has experienced as well as treatment neglect. Eskander describes how “[i]n jails and prisons throughout the country, people with mental illness of all races suffer mistreatment and medical neglect, and have high rates of suicide and self-harm. But people of color with mental health disabilities are even less likely to receive proper mental health services.”

Our pick of other news about solitary confinement:

 Crosscut profiles Arthur Longworth, a man who was just released from the Washington State Penitentiary on April 11, after spending nearly 40 years in prison. Longworth is a prolific writer and has won multiple awards during his time in prison—as a recipient of a Solitary Confinement Reporting Project grant he wrote about life in a supermax for [Solitary Watch and] the New Republic in 2020. Longworth spent his youth in a violent foster care system, describing in his testimony “I was raised to be an animal, and that’s what happened.”

 The Root covers the recent release of a report from the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding abuses, enforced segregation, and prolonged solitary confinement at Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. MSNBC describes that 23 people in Parchman died in the last three years, describing prisons in the south as experiencing a “humanitarian crisis.” The report accused the Mississippi Department of Corrections of violating the 8th and 14th Amendment rights of incarcerated people.

 The Connecticut Examiner published a letter to the editor insisting that, “The only possible explanation left for the existence of solitary confinement in Connecticut is a sheer disregard for the humanity of Connecticut citizens incarcerated in its prisons.” The letter, written by a member of the advocacy group Stop Solitary CT, urges support for the PROTECT Act. NBC Connecticut interviews Kelan Lyons from the CT Examiner about the bill, and the difficulty of getting testimony from incarcerated people.

 WBEZ Chicago covers the story of Anthony Gay, a man with serious mental illnesses, whose seven-year prison sentence turned into a 97-year sentence. Gay spent prolonged time in solitary, after which his mental health deteriorated. The station interviewed former state attorney Seth Uphoff, who came to agree that Gay was incorrectly sentenced, and described the resentencing as, “a major moral victory about prison, mental illness and solitary, about how punishment can spin out of control, go beyond logic.”

 Aaron M. Kinzer published an opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the importance of making smartphones accessible to people in prison, describing his experience while incarcerated, risking and eventually enduring six weeks of solitary confinement for having a contraband cell phone. He urges Congress to amend the Cell Phone Contraband Act, insisting that “in prison, a phone is a lifeline, a thin thread holding together fragile family bonds.”

 WSMV profiled Za’Cari Lillard, a teenager who at the age of 10 was arrested and held in solitary confinement for a non-existent crime. He was among 1,500 other children, mostly black, that a ProPublica investigation revealed had been arrested for crimes that never took place, under the inhumane direction of Rutherford County Judge Donna Davenport. Lillard’s mother described the arrest saying, “I feel like they basically kidnapped my son.”

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